It might be your nervous hands or my deceased ancestors that make the pointer on a regular Ouija Board move. On an iPad Ouija Board, there could be another culprit: a computer programmer. Fair or foul?
There are already three Ouija-Board style apps for the iPad, which may be the ideal device for virtual Ouija Boards. It's big enough, flat enough, bright enough and responsive to enough simultaneous finger-touches, that it could produce ideal Ouija conditions.
Randy Greenback, game developer at Mad Monkey Militia knew all this. He knew the iPad would be great, and so, a couple of days ago, early iPad adopters got a chance to try his company's $2 Ouija release: SpiritPad: The Oracle.
"There is no better platform for an app like this," Greenback told Kotaku. "You can lay the iPad down on a table, get your friends around it and start having some fun. We know some people won't take it seriously, some may use it to prank or scare their friends but others will really get into it and use it to hold their own séance."
But, there's that question... who is responsible for those jolts and jitters when the the pointer — the planchette — starts to move?
Not iPad developer Randy Greenback. He's not the man to blame if it moves this time.
His Ouija Board for iPad hasn't been programmed to be possessed... yet.
"The game at launch does not contain an artificial intelligence and relies instead on the player's sub-conscience and the Automatism theory (the ideomotor response), the same as the classic Ouija boardgame," he explained to Kotaku.
That ideomotor response is the theory that people will sometimes involuntarily move in ways that express their inner thoughts.
So it would be you who moves the planchette on his iPad Ouija board. Or spirits, he admits: "The Spiritualist side of the equation (which I don't prescribe to, but is very interesting) obviously believes that entities, or spirits speak through the boards via the planchette and the medium."
The temptation must be great, though, to possess a Ouija Board with intelligence, to grant a digital spirit to something we would otherwise only have to believe is possessed. Video game designers have this kind of power, to play god, to be the agent of the wind and sunlight and rules of death in the worlds they create — even in the "world" of an iPad Ouija Board. So it shouldn't be too surprising that Greenback will eventually program a mind, or spirit, into SpiritPad.
"We will use the AI in subtle ways once we update and the goal is to catch players off-guard and create a moment that will keep them talking and second guessing themselves," he explained. "If we can make them ask, 'Did that really just happen?,' then we've done our job well. We don't want to ruin the surprise by exposing the magic underneath the app, but did want to clarify our plans for the title with you. We're going to use the AI, sound effects, and voices to really play with peoples minds. It's all in good fun though."
Greenback said his team won't lard the SpiritPad with gimmicks so much that it ruins the classic Ouija Board experience. A classic mode will remain.
If you were making a Ouija Board and could add a spirit to it, would you? On the iPad, that's possible, in a manner of speaking, if you want to believe — or at least fake it.